The signing sets the stage for a Whitecap Dakota Treaty in the relatively small community south of Saskatoon, which is known for its impressive achievements.
Its unemployment rate is five per cent and an estimated 500 people commute from Saskatoon to the First Nation on a daily basis for work.
Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear took yet another step toward advancing the reserve’s success on Monday by unlocking even more possibilities and potential through this agreement.
“What we’re looking for out of this – we’ve indicated to Canada – certainly the benefits of the number of treaties, additional land base for Whitecap,” Bear said.
“Resources for economic development, some capital resources for some investment in the community and some resources for language and culture programming in Whitecap.”
Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs, said this new approach by Ottawa should make for a more streamline process rather than what used to be a lot of stopping and starting.
“It used to be that I would have to go to cabinet, get a mandate then negotiations within that box. That’s why you heard from First Nations that it was ‘take it or leave it, see you in court.'”
Bennett said the process now involves officials sitting down with a blank piece of paper to get to a term sheet outlining what communities would like addressed.
“In what the prime minister calls a recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnerships – this is the way partners deal with one another as opposed to the rather tilted power differential that existed for far too long.”
In the 1870s, Dakota Chief Whitecap was present at both Treaty 4 and 6 discussions, but was not invited to sign the documents.
As a result, Whitecap Dakota First Nation received significantly less land than those belonging to Treaty First Nations – 16 acres versus 128.
To make up for that lost time, land, and rights, he expressed interest in an aggressive timeline for treaty negotiations with the aim for Whitecap to be even more sustainable, self-reliant and eventually expand its land base to Saskatoon.
“For us this is very important, this is history being made because at the end of the day,” Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand said.
“This is where we talk about accountability, transparency of First Nations and organizations and when you look at this type of agreement it’s controlling our destiny and being part of the economy.”
The agreement doesn’t just close the gaps said the minister, it goes beyond and although there is still a lot of work that remains, both parties look forward to the continued progress.
“I think we set precedent, a good precedent for other First Nations to follow and if more First Nations can emulate what’s happening here we’ll have a strong Canada,” Bear added.